KP Sharma

The highlanders of Thimphu’s Lingshi and Dagala gewogs are pressing the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to offer equitable compensation for livestock losses caused by natural disasters and other wild predators, in addition to the present coverage, which is limited to losses caused by tigers. The highlanders, who rely significantly on livestock as a source of income, claim that the ministry’s existing compensation programme is unreasonable.

Dargo Pem, Dagala’s mangmi, said that natural disasters killed around 60 livestock in 2020-21. Furthermore, in 2021, more than 70 yaks and 20 horses were killed by wild animals. Dargo Pema underlined that the people of Wangdog, Dungdog, and Getala chiwogs are particularly affected by this issue, as they do not receive compensation for losses caused by animals such as bears or natural calamities.

Lingshi gup, Wangdi, said that a significant number of animals perish due to extreme cold and untimely rain. He further said that the livestock compensation, which used to be in place in previous years, has been discontinued over time. He clarified that the compensation proposal does not seek reimbursement for losses resulting from poor management by owners, but rather aims to provide compensation for losses incurred due to unexpected disasters on a larger scale.

Farmers had previously received compensation, according to an agriculture ministry official. However, the funds set aside for this purpose have run out, leaving the government unable to compensate the farmers for the time being. In the past, a large payment from a foreign philanthropist permitted compensations for losses suffered by wild animal attacks, according to the official.

Naro gup, Gem Tshering, confirmed the narrow scope of compensation, noting that the gewog’s funds for livestock compensation are only available to farmers who have been attacked by tigers. The official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock also expressed concern over farmers’ delayed reporting of occurrences, which impedes forest officials’ investigations. In one case, the death of animals in Getala was recorded seven months later, making it difficult to pinpoint the specific cause.

The official further justified the compensation provided for livestock killed by tigers, citing their endangered status and their significant role in maintaining the ecosystem. However, the highlanders argue that other wild predators and natural calamities also pose a significant threat to their livestock and livelihoods, necessitating fair compensation for losses incurred in such circumstances.

As the highlanders of Lingshi and Dagala continue to seek fair compensation for their livestock losses, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock faces mounting pressure to address their concerns. The issue at hand not only impacts the economic well-being of these communities but also highlights the delicate balance between wildlife conservation and the livelihoods of local residents.